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11 September 2001

by Lionel E. Deimel


Into the wilderness we must go

To find and vanquish the evil foe.


Our forces are fearsome, our fortitude strong

As we face our duty to right a great wrong.


Our passion aflame to our homeland defend,

We know the beginning, yet fear for the end.


Embarking on mission we did not invite,

Though loving the peace, we cannot but fight.


The whole world is watching and with us, we pray,

Though allied or not, we must carry the day.


Our interests, with others, may not seem aligned,

But mostly, we do what we do for mankind.




Today, this poem seems to need no explanation. Perhaps, one day, it will. Like most Americans (and, one hopes, most people), I was horrified on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four domestic airliners and flew three of them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. I felt an immediate need to write about those events, but it took some time to get myself into an adequate frame of mind to so. This poem was apparently inspired by President Bush’s address to Congress on September 20, in that I awoke the next day with the first couplet in my head. The sentiments are largely those of my essay of September 16. I finished the poem on September 23, 2001.

The fourth line originally ended with “to fight a great wrong,” which was intended to add to the alliteration introduced by “forces,” “fearsome,” “fortitude,” and “face.” For several reasons, however, “to right a great wrong” seems more natural and does not greatly lessen the effect of the alliteration.

When I wrote the poem, I very much believed that our military response was defending civilization, and not simply the United States. Alas, the “War on Terror” (or “Terrorism,” or whatever) has developed into an adventurism that has been the subject more of the condemnation of the world’s civilized nations than their approbation.

The final couplet in the original poem was

We act out of motives complex and combined,

But mostly, we do what we do for mankind.

I was never quite comfortable with the first line of this stanza, which was peculiar, at best. I changed that line 9/10/2011 to what you see above. This changed the meaning a bit, but it reads better and is surely true to the spirit of the original.

Be sure also to read my other poems inspired by the atrocities of September 11, “Falling from the Sky” and “Airplanes II,” as well as the essay “What's in a Name?”.

— LED, 9/12/2011

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